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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  March 18, 2013 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

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speaking for journalism, really. for journalists. >> too close to the story? for refusing for critical? >> we didn't keep our distance. we didn't ask the right questions. we weren't obnoxious enough. that's our job. it's not to take the line that officials are giving you, but to probe and to poke holes at it and to test it, and we didn't do it sufficiently. >> why not? >> we got caught up in the sort of group mind of washington and group think was saying, yes, it's terribly important and this is something we must do. >> did they see it as a patriotic duty? >> there were reporters who quoted those retired intelligence firms or military officials who were saying this is not right. but those stories ran on page a-37 1/2. so yeah, they were there but that's not the way we should do it. this should be a sober anniversary, i think, for us. >> very much so. not intoxicated on self
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congratulation. but your colleague suggests that in his book that colin powell threw the stuff up in the air and said this is not real. >> clearly there were members of the administration who knew that -- who knew saddam hussein was a bad guy, and the world perhaps would be better off without him. but knew that our rationale, what we were saying about why we were going to go amass a huge army and invade a country was not true. >> eugene robinson, thank you so much for your insight.
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>> welcome. >> by the way, rachel maddow's documentary, hubris, selling the iraq war, airing this friday at 9 pm. "the rachel maddow show" starts now. >> good evening. thank you for talking about hubris and that overall pretty context of it. i appreciate it. >> thank you so much for making that documentary, rachel. it's a great one. >> thank you. and thanks to you at home for joining us. we start with some jaw-dropping information about american politics that has been reported out by a british news source. it's the bbc. they have just aired a new documentary based on oval office tapes, which proves something about the american presidency and modern history that even the most conspiratorial among us would not be able to believe. it's about the 1968 election. the democratic electorate was
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split. they were not unified behind their candidate. on the right, southern white democrats who were against civil rights, they were being peeled off to vote for george wallace, the symbol of proud segregation. also, different problem for the democrats. people hated the vietnam war. and the president at the time was a democrat, lyndon b. johnson. so if you were against the war, as most americans at that point were -- this is the gallop polling on the war -- the number of people who thought it was a mistake -- if you were against the war as increasingly everybody was, you were so the
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psyched to vote for lbj's successor. so the democrats were losing their appeal in the south because of racism, and they were losing the anti-war vote. the republican candidate tried to take advantage of that split, and was this handsome devil. nixon in 1968 was running against a democratic party that he knew was split. he was, in response, pledging to get rid of the draft. and he claimed to have a plan to end the war. he argued that if you wanted the war to end, you needed to elect him. you needed to vote the democrats out of office because clearly lbj and his party, the democrats and the democratic party, hubert humphry had no idea how to end the war. when you needed was total change at the white house. the democrats had to go to nixon could come in and end vietnam.
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but then less than a week before the election, it all went horribly wrong for richard nixon, because less than a week before election, on halloween night, 1968, the democratic president, lbj, went on tv in a surprise nationally televised address. he made a surprise announcement that peace was at hand. the communist side, the vietnamese side was going to be make concessions at peace talks. the south vietnamese were going to agree to a deal. peace was at hand. the terms were all set. peace was at hand. in recognition of the fact that peace was about to be declared, the united states would step back right away and stop all military operations in vehement. lbj said that on thursday night. the election was going to be tuesday. turns out the democrats know how to end this war. that was bad news for richard nixon, but good news for the
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country who wanted the war to be over. good news for the people fighting the war. this was good news, right? almost. thursday night lbj made that announcement, that peace was about to be agreed to, by all sides in vietnam. that was thursday night. by saturday morning, never mind, deal was off. peace was not at hand because the south vietnamese side has decided actually it didn't want the deal. in fact, they didn't want to talk about it deal. they pulled out of the peace talks. and so the war was back on. what happened? what happened between thursday and saturday? now we know. >> good morning. how are you, my friend? >> fine. >> i've got one that's pretty rough for you. we have found that our friend, the republican nominee, our california friend, has been playing on the outskirts with our enemies and our friends
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both, he's been doing it through rather subterranean sources here, and he has been saying to the allies that you're going to get sold out. you better not give away your liberty just a few hours before i can preserve it for you. mrs. chennault is contacting their ambassador. this is not guess work. she's young and attractive. she's a pretty good-looking girl. she's around town, and she is warning them to not get pulled in on this johnson move. >> president lyndon johnson, 1968, saturday morning, november 1st, explaining to senator richard russell what had gone wrong with this peace deal that everybody thought was going to end the war. lbj was so sure this was going to end the war that he went on tv thursday night. the reason peace did not happen, what he was explaining on the phone, is that the republican nominee for president that year, richard nixon, had intervened in the peace talks to blow them up. he used an intermediary who was involved in the talks to approach the south vietnamese side and told them don't do it.
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these peace talks in paris was not going to be a good deal for them. they should not participate. they should just wait until after the election when he, richard nixon, would be president and he'd give them a much better deal. johnson was going to sell them out. he, richard nixon, of the one he should deal with. nixon's intermediary was caught on tape telling the ambassador, just hang on. we need the war to keep going through the election. it's outrageous, right? the war could have ended. it was on the verge of ending, except a candidate for office in our country thought that the war ending would help his opponent in the election. he thought he'd have a better chance of getting elected if the war kept going. so instead of getting the war to end, he did what he did. it was astonishing. and president johnson thought so
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too. >> and they oughtn't to be doing this. i think it would shock america if a principal candidate was playing with a source like this on a matter this important. >> yeah. >> president lyndon johnson there on the same day as that earlier tape remarking that, as far as he could tell, this is treason. he says it repeatedly on the tapes. he thinks that is a hanging offense. he thinks that was treason. this was four days before the election that year. having thought that the war was going to be over, now the president finds out the peace deal fell through because a candidate who wanted there not to be peace before the election intervened to make one sidewalk away. now, why didn't lbj say anything publicly? this is right before the election. can you imagine how the country would have reacted to that? this is a war the whole country was against. it was going to be over except candidate nixon intervened to undo the peace deal and keep the war going? can you imagine how angry the american public would have been. but lbj did not say anything publicly at the time because he thought he couldn't. the reason he thought he couldn't is the way he found out what nixon had done. the fbi illegally wire-tapped the phones of the south vietnamese ambassador. we couldn't let anybody know that we were illegally listening into the ambassador's phone
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lines so they couldn't let anybody know what they had heard. so nixon got away with it. and the october surprise. the halloween night surprise that the war was ending right before the election, that october surprises ended up getting undone. anybody who was anti-war in the country had no reason to vote for a democrat. the racist right wing voted peeled off the the vote on the other side. and yes, nixon won. he got by barely. squeaked by on the basis that he was the guy who knew how to end the war, not those dumb democrats. and of course nixon did not know how to end the war. he didn't have a plan. and instead of the war ending on halloween in 1968, the war went on five more years, in which time 15,000 americans were killed as were untold numbers of vietnamese. so that happened. that actually happened, and now
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in 2013, what are we supposed to do with that information? lbj is dead, nixon is dead, george wallace is dead. 15,000 americans are dead who otherwise would not have been. how does this get made right? it cannot get made right because the people of this decision cannot be brought back from the dead. you also can't get revenge. you can't indict nixon's ghost. but you can refuse to let him get away with it again.
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we can make sure it is a way we tell his history and the history of modern politics. you have to include it in the history, both so nobody gets away with it in the long run, but also so we don't do it again. so we at least don't dismiss this kind of possibility as some conspiracy theory of nonsense. so we knee there is precedent for this particular kind of evil. on friday night's show, chris hayes was here. one of the things chris talked about was the appearance at cpac this year of the last candidate for president, mitt romney. but the thing that struck me the most about mitt romney's speech, which was his first major public appearance since losing the
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presidency, of the part at the end of his speech where he talked about the iraq war. he described the iraq war as a war of liberation. we fought the iraq war to liberate the iraqi people from tyranny. the iraq war was supposedly to get saddam hussein's weapons of mass destruction and the nuclear weapons he was going to set off. we were going into that war to
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stop him from giving those biological and chemical weapons to the terrorists that they told us he was working with in al qaeda. that's why they told us we had to go to war in iraq. that's what they told us about why we had to have that war. none of it was true. ten years ago when we invaded iraq, we were told it was all about 9/11, that if we didn't go invade iraq, that the next attack by the same people would be a nuclear attack. a chemical weapons talk or a nuclear attack. the smoking gun would be a mushroom cloud. and that's not true. there was relationship between
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the iraqi government and the people who attacked us on 9/11. and yet, there's the republican presidential nominee, the last one to run, saying actually the iraq war was a war of liberation. at the republican convention this year, when they picked that nominee, the speech was given by the national security adviser during the iraq war, the one who said the smoking gun would be a mushroom cloud, who describe that war in her speech that night at the convention as a hard hard decision to keep us from being attacked again. ten years later it is hard to come to terms with the fact we went to war based on something the president told us that was not true. there is nothing that can bring back the more than 4400 american troops who died in that war, the more than 30,000 american troops wounded will not be made whole. we cannot bring them back. we cannot heal their injuries retroactively. and george bush and dick cheney and condoleezza rice are still around. in terms of how we get right with this as a country, the accountability can't just be personal about the decision makers. it has to be about telling the story honestly about what happened so that they, like nixon, don't get away with it in
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the long run the way they got away with it in the short run, so we tell the story correctly and honestly, so it's not dismissed as a conspiracy theory by generations hence by americans who can't believe something this evil would happen in our country. it did. we need to teach it that way and learn it that way if we want to have any hope of it not happening again. in american politics there were plenty of democrats who went with the iraq war ten years ago, who believed it, and made it more convincing by virtue of their democratic endorsement. on the democratic side that at least as since become a source of shame. it's a strike against you in democratic politics. it's part of the reason we have a president named president obama who was not part of that mess and not hillary clinton who frankly was part of that mess. they have had to apologize and explain why they were wrong. that vote for the iraq war has held against them. on the republican side, nixon still does have a secret plan to end the war.
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on the republican side, iraq was a war of liberation if you ask them in 2013. on the republican side the iraq war is what kept us safe so we wouldn't get attacked again the way we did on 9/11 if you ask them in 2011. that smoking gun could have been a mushroom cloud. thank god we went in. we have been through two presidential election cycles since then, and this is still the top line at the republican party, trying to sell us the same lie. and until the republican party gets right on this, the history will never be told honestly because it will always be told as a contested and partisan thing. how does this get right? the problem here is that there will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire nuclear weapon. but we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud. asional have constipation, diarrhea, gas, bloating? yes! one phillips' colon health probiotic cap each day helps defend against these digestive issues... with three strains of good bacteria. [ phillips' lady ] live the regular life. phillips'.
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about the lead-up to the iraq war in september 2002 about something that was not true. joining us now is retired army colonel lawrence wilkinson. he has been a truth teller about what went wrong. colonel wilkerson, thanks for joining us. how would you describe the prevailing mindset about the war in iraq? a lot of democrats supported the war. democrats essentially had to repent if they supported the war. how do you think republicans feel about it now? >> rachel, that depends on to whom you're speaking. some like myself, i think chuck hagel, i would describe as moderates, as hagel as said in
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the past that iraq was a catastrophe, still believe that and believe that history's verdict ultimately will be that. others in the party are trying desperately to defend the decision because they see it as impacting their future possibilities of particularly regaining the white house. and still others just don't want to listen. they're sort of like that crew that you were describing in your opening remarks that won't believe the truth even if it hits them in the face. and incidentally i was using the lbj revelations in my seminar today to demonstrate to my students some of the things that happen at the highest levels 6 power in this country. >> thinking about the republican possibility of regaining the white house, people are making that calculation about how they have to explain their past
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behavior, i think in any presidential year it's a 50/50 chance that a democrat or republican will take the white house, give or take the circumstances. but that's why i am worried about the republican party not sort of getting right about what happened there. because it's possible we are going to have a republican president sometime soon again, and i want to know that the republican party has been through an acknowledgement about what went wrong there, and some sort of process to make sure it doesn't happen again. do you feel like there is at least honesty that it was a mistake, that there's some effort to make sure it doesn't happen again? >> i wish i could say yes. i wish i could answer in the affirmative. i will tell you that one of the basic reasons i cast a vote for president obama this time around, even though i'm a republican, a second time around, although i'd lost some faith in him because he didn't close guantanamo and other things i wish he'd done, the main reason is because i kept thinking that mitt romney would be another george bush, that despite the fact there's always an inconsistency, of late there's development a schism in
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the foreign policy and mitt romney would indeed lead us down the road to another catastrophic, this time with iran. >> having been there while it was going so wrong, seeing it up close, when you think about our governance, do you think there's something that we can do now as a country to try to make it right, to fix the harm we did to ourselves as a country, not just politically. is there any kind of way we can fix the strategic error of that war internally and internationally? >> i think it boils down to the american people. i would like to say there's institutional change we could make statutorily or otherwise.
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i would like to say that we could elect different people. i would like to say all manner of things that would be easier to do, but i think the bottom line is the american people have got to get angry and they've got to start doing things, local things, state things, national things, whatever they can find or think to do. i was in great neck, new york, talking to a synagogue group this last weekend, and i'll tell you that all those people were war weary and sick and tired of all the people we've been spending. they're jewish americans and yet they see what we're doing in terms of israel, they see what aipac does from time to time in terms of influencing u.s. policy, and they see how it would lead potentially to another war, this time with iran as i said. and the american people need to get angry. they need to get as angry as these people were. they need to do things. they need to write their senators, write their representatives, call them. do whatever they can do within
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their capacity. some have a greater capacity than others. but it's ultimately going to take the american people to say we are sick and tired of the military instrument being the representation to the world. until we do that, we're going to have more of it. >> colonel wilkerson, that view that you are seeing out in the world, that's reflected in public opinion polling. that's people saying they think the war in iraq was a mistake. thank you so much for your time tonight, sir. i really appreciate having you here. >> thank you, rachel. >> a reminder that our look back at how the count was sold on the iraq war, hubris is going to air this friday at 9 pm eastern. today was a new day for american politics. by new, think betamax. think pong.
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today was a big day in republican politics. republican party chairman reince priebus held court today to talk about a new rnc report calling for drastic changes if republicans want to remain a viable political party. among the many things that need to be changed is the party's relationship with people of the lady persuasion. quote, the rnc must improve its efforts to include female voters. additionally when developing our party's message, women need to be part of this process to represent some of the unique
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concerns that female voters may have. the republicans say they want to do training programs for messaging, constructions and recruiting but address the best ways to communicate with women. they say they want to book more women on tv on behalf of the party. they want a more aggressive response to democrat rhetoric regarding a so-called war on women. they want to use women's history month as an opportunity to remind voters of the republican's party historical role in advancing the women's rights movement. emphasis on historical role. whether it might help republicans today to appeal to women more, to roll back women's rights by decades at a time in this century. that is one unexamined problem area with the ladies that the republican party is apparently not trying to change. in congress, this current session, this new one this year,
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it opened up in the house with two dueling republican bills to defund planned parenthood. senator rubio fund himself one upped by his rival for the republican savior who introduced a bill which would ban abortion altogether. the bill would also ban in vitro fertilization. whatever you think of the planned parenthood legislation, it has to be said that this turns into law and not just politics. in the states where republicans are in power, they are doing stuff right now that they have never done before. as long as abortion has been legal in this country and constitutionally protected for the past 40 years.
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they have never been more radical than they are right now. we have reported before on this show about the radical turn taken in arkansas's legislature where lawmakers just passed an ban that was vetoed, that it was unconstitutional. but the arkansas legislature overrode the veto because they do not care that her definitely going to get sued over it, and that they will lose that lawsuit and they will waste a bunch of money in the process. much as they would like to, republicans cannot just ban abortion, thanks to row versus wade. arkansas does not stand alone because now republicans in north dakota have passed an even more extreme and obviously unconstitutional ban on
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abortion. theirs doesn't start at 12 weeks. theirs starts at 6 weeks, which is before many women even know they're pregnant in the first place. north dakota's governor has three days to either sign or veto the bill. even if he does veto, the legislature can't just override him. and while he decides what to do about the obviously illegal abortion ban, republicans are poised to send him a couple more even more radical bills. there's two rand paul style personhood bills that would ban all abortion and in vitro fertilization. it is getting harder and harder for any one unprecedented totally unconstitutional abortion ban to hold the title of most extreme abortion restriction in the country. republicans are essentially in a race now.
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in the beltway they are preaching about how to appear more reasonable to the women folk among us, while it's a race to see who can get the most extreme the fastest. these are not just proposals for political benefit. this is not just a wish list. these are actual bills being passed through entire legislatures and enacted into law in republican-controlled states. this is what republican governance looks like right now. it is more radical on abortion and contraception in four years. happy women's history month from the republican national committee. angie's list is essential. i automatically go there.
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party at the same event said this? >> more background checks? dandy idea, mr. president. should have started with yours. >> what would you do if the most guaranteed to get headlines member of your party decided to stick with the birther thing and in the same 24-hour period the man in your party who has more name recognition than any other conceivable candidate for national office said this. >> way too many people believe republicans are anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-science, anti-gay, anti-worker, and the list goes on and on and on. >> if that from jeb bush and the background birther thing and the proud wacko bird thing, what
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the conservative political action conference is really good at generating attention. if you're a conservative, it's a place you go to get headlines, to make waves. the sheer waves were made by conservative senator rand paul, fresh off his filibuster. he said the republican has moss growing it. a man named donald trump talked about his new golf course. newt gingrich talked. it did not help when the white nationalist contingent showed up. former vice-presidential candidate sarah palin used her turn at the podium to try to start a fight with karl rove. >> the last thing we need is
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washington vetting our candidates. if these experts, who keep losing elections yet keep getting rehired, reeking in millions, if they feel that strongly about who gets to run in this party, then they should buck up or stay in the truck. buck up and run. the architects can head on back to -- [ applause ] >> they can head on back to the great lone star state and put their name on some ballad, though i hope they give themselves a discount on the consulting services. >> yeah, cpac is not a place where ideas get launched. it's cable news chum. it's three days of fantasy.
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there's always so much guaranteed red meat at cpac. there's so much off the wall cookiness. cpac is fun, right? it's fun to cover. it got a ton of press and frankly, people may still be taking about sarah palin and her taking a giant sip out of a tub of soda pop, or where mitt romney called iraq a war of liberation. people might still be talking about all this stuff if it were not for this. the day after cpac ended, the morning after cpac ended, the republican national committee stamped any glowing embers of cpac news by releasing to the public its party-wide most mortem on why they lost the presidential election. that of course gave everybody a new story to talk about in republican politics instead of the cpac craziness. >> the report notes that the way
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we communicate our principles isn't resonating widely enough. focus groups described our party as narrow-minded, out of touch, and quote, stuffy old men. that's frustrating, because we care about every voter. we want to lift people up from poverty, to put the american dream in reach for everybody. we'll champion school choice and solutions to lowering the costs of healthcare. the rnc cannot and will not write off any demographic community of this country. >> the main thrust of the republican party's autopsy of what went wrong. their plan to get back from the wilderness is as ben smith of buzzfeed pointed out, it's kind of a redo of compassionate conservatism. they came up with the solution
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that they should be now what george w. bush wanted to be remembered for, which ended up not being at all what he is remembered for. compassionate conservatism was supposed to be the signature of the bush party. a kinder approach to immigration, more funding for medicare and education. george w. bush used to talk about his armies of compassion. but armies of compassion are not what george w. bush is remembered for. now more than a decade later the republican party seems to have revived the strategy that got him elected in the first place, this idea of compassionate conservatism, a kinder, less mean-seeming republican party. the question is why would it work now when it did not end up working for george w. bush except to get him elected once, and how can you earn an image change like that without changing any of your policies that earned you the image you now want to change. joining us is john brabender.
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mr. brabender, it's great to have you here. >> i'm glad to be here, and every i am i'm here, i'm increasingly convinced you are not going to switch and become a republican. >> i will keep trying to persuade you of that. let me ask you if you think my analysis is biased by the fact that i am not a republican. i look at sort of the republican prognosis for what went wrong, that autopsy that they unveiled today, and i see that as trying to rebrand at compassionate conservatism again? do you see that? >> i think it's more complicated than that. first of all i do think that chairman priebus had very good intentions, and actually put out a pretty good report. i don't necessarily agree with everything in there but i think there was a lot of good things in there. one of the things i thought that was important but not getting as much press is the whole thing about the american dream not being reached by lower and
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middle income americans. i think that the perception is that the republican party today fights for the wealthy with tax breaks for the wealthy, for corporations, loopholes, and doesn't really understand the average hard-working american anymore and that's what we've got to get back to. >> i was struck by that piece of it because it seems it's not a hypothetical or divorced from the facts assessment. during the primary campaign where your count rick santorum did well against mitt romney, at one point where they got the most traction against mitt romney was talking about those economic angles about the way mitt romney has behaved in corporate america, the vulture capitalism. it wasn't endorsed uniformly by all of mr. romney's competitors in the primary but it did seem to work. and then there was just a vociferous backlash among the republican establishment that
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you shouldn't talk that way about success. how do you think that plays out? >> it looked like we were attacking capitalism, and i don't think that was the intent. but i do think this, all over this country tonight there will be people waking up at 3:00 in the morning, tossing and turning and not being able to get back to sleep. it's not because they're worried about tax breaks for the rich, or about financial bankers on wall street getting too small bonuses. it's about how they're going to get their kids in college, it's becoming more difficult to raise children frankly in this culture. ronald reagan was very good as making what was known as reagan democrats fighting for him and i think our party has get an away from that. >> i know you have different views and come from a different place, but he was really the champion at high-level politics, hitting still on issues about
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sexual morality, on issues like abortion. i see the party as not moving away from those issues, even as some of the intellectual discussion in the party says that that stuff needs to be let behind. do you think that's the party's future or do you think it's only in the past? >> i would say there's two things. the mistake or trap we fall in is we allow ourselves to be singularly defined by those issues. i would argue that things like abortion is an important issue. however, we can't let our party only be about abortion. the second thing is a lot of people are looking at the demographics results and argue we need to be a different party. ultd say no. you're not foing to do that. i think the republican party has to be the same way.
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>> a lot of republicans say we don't want to be be defined as only being interested in anti-abortion politics. you look at what's going on whether republicans are governing and they really are in an unprecedented anti-abortion wave rolling back abortion rights in states more so than any at any other times in 40 years. you can't do that and don't want to be known for it. >> what the report talked act is excessive republican governors. in many states democratic states. why? they're still pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-gun. they're not defined that way.
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as a party we talk about being pro-life. i would argue too many times we're only pro-birth and kind of forget about the person as they get older. aren't we fighting just as hard for the life and not getting the food they need. we need to do a better job of that. >> i think you guys will always be famous for policy. what you do ends up making the news. seeing the republican party fight amongst yourself about this stuff. so far i think it's a constructive discussion. so far the talk is great. thank you so much for being here. >> glad to be here. >> we'll be right back. thank you orville and wilbur... ...amelia... neil and buzz: for teaching us that you can't create the future...
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today is gonna be an important day for us. you ready? we wanna be our brother's keeper. what's number two we wanna do? bring it up to 90 decatherms. how bout ya, joe? let's go ahead and bring it online. attention on site, attention on site. now starting unit nine. some of the world's cleanest gas turbines are now powering some of america's biggest cities. siemens. answers. picasso painted one of his master works at 56.
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that means tomorrow is tuesday, but tomorrow is not just any kind of tuesday. tomorrow is this kind of tuesday. yes, if it's tuesday and you hear that music, it must be an election day somewhere. it is rare to get to hear this wonderful music in an odd numbered year. already did once with the primary for jesse jackson's vacated house seat in illinois. here we go again. here is what you need to know. tomorrow, the election in south carolina's first congressional district. here is why it is happening. in 2010, jim demint won re-election, he rather handily beat the guy on the right, one of the stranger candidates, a man named elvin green. demint got another shot at playing conservative king maker in the senat
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